By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
One of the many benefits of being a member of the National Association of Black Journalists is the people you meet at the annual convention. The convention is a golden opportunity to network, and at last year’s conference, I met Marcus Osborne.
Osborne, a radio industry veteran based in the Bay Area, and I were on a panel in San Diego covering the relationship between journalists and public relations professionals. We chatted after and said we’d keep in touch. Since then, he has ramped up his venture, StraightMaleFriend.com, a multiplatform effort that offers advice to women from a male perspective. Below, we discuss how he came up with the idea, using social media to support Straight Male Friend and what it takes to do a similar endeavor.
Marcus Osborne: I’ve always been a guy with lots of platonic female friends. A few years ago, I appeared on a reality show on ABC called “How To Get The Guy.” It was for 30-something professional women with everything in their lives but love. Three of us came on as average guy relationship counselors. The women would put questions in a fishbowl and we’d answer them. After the show was over, I though “we could create an industry doing this.” Frankly, I don’t think women know what they’re talking about when it comes to giving advice about men because women get that information from other women. I kept seeing women giving crazy advice about men, and I would say, “you’re crazy, no guy would do that!”
I was the co-host and producer on a country radio station in the Bay Area and I got laid off back in 2007. I have two daughters, and moving from the Bay Area was not an option. So I looked at my skills. I could write, I’m good on the air and can talk on relationships. I had a friend who was having relationship problems, and said I could help. From there, I sent out an email to all my female contacts asking for 10 questions they wanted to ask males. I got thousands.
From there, I turned it into a book, Your Straight Male Friend…Every Woman Should Have At Least One!, did a book tour and launched a blog, Your Straight Male Friend. In the last year, I felt it was time to get serious, so I created SMF Media to create content on every media platform: online, radio, print, TV, movies, or whatever else we can find. The content will be all original, with StraightMaleFriend.com as our first product. I just signed a deal with CBS Radio to syndicate our podcasts and website.
Looking ahead, we’re searching for a title sponsor for our national tour, where we’ll do live events. That tour is the focus for 2011. The plan is to get us to the top 40 markets to do our live events.
ND: How did you find the “males” for the show?
MO: I worked with both guys [John Scott and Matty Staudt] in radio. I worked with Matty for 10 years and he’s one of my best friends. We play off each other and he’s very creative. I wanted him on my team to manage the content. I’m the big picture-creative guy who likes to think big. But I also needed someone who could manage the small things, so I brought in John Scott, who used to manage the Bay Area AM Clear Channel Country stations.
ND: You started the blog on Blogger, but moved over to WordPress. Why did you make that move?
MO: That was a recommendation from one of our web consultant people. You can do more on WordPress because it allows for greater flexibility and versatility that Blogger doesn’t have. But as things take off, we’ll probably build a website from scratch. That will allow us to do the things we can’t do on any blog platform, like a chat function, do posts and podcasts in real time and meet people. We want to create a national community. We want to be like Oprah.
ND: You are a big user of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, the blog, the podcast and Formspring for questions. How important do you think social media has been in expanding the reach of the show?
MO: It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. If you have a really good product, people will talk about you. Look at Facebook. We can see how our content is forwarded, and it costs nothing. Do you know how much it would cost for PR alone? I checked our analytics and found that Facebook is the number one place people find Straight Male Friend. It’s incredible, the power of social media. The greatest advertising is word of mouth, and it’s particularly important for Straight Male Friend because we talk about issues that are extremely personal. We are not counselors, but we can offer advice.
ND: How do you make money with Straight Male Friend?
MO: We are doing it through advertising, and I expect to be generating revenue in the next six to seven months. We’re doing ads on our podcasts and we want to create one-minute featurettes that will be syndicated on radio stations and sponsored by an advertiser like Coca Cola. You’ll also see banners on our website and see links to content partners. The process has been grueling, but the money’s coming.
We’ll also make money off Straight Male Friend events, the book available at Amazon.com and we’ll sell merchandise. We also have an online version of Straight Male Friend in video, which will be a sponsored show. You have to be creative, but there’s lots of money to be made.
ND: What advice would you give to people who want to take their issue/topic and replicate some of the things you’ve done with Straight Male Friend?
MO: If you want to do this, go ahead and put a blog together and start writing. Get it out to as many people as you can. Make sure your product is good and decide what your audience is. And ask the question: will it be something that appeals to sponsors? The only way to make money is through sponsorships or through subscriptions. But subscriptions are hard because there’s just too much free stuff out there.